Dagood has replied to my rebuttal. He buried his reply in the combox over at Debunking Christianity. Having read his reply, I can well understand why he consigned it to obscurity.
“Dating of Exodus Again, steve brings up Kitchen, and the complete lack of evidence of Exodus not necessarily meaning it never happened. I did not intend to go through all the problems with the Exodus itself in this blog, just the Plagues. (Too long!)”
i) The “complete lack of evidence” disregards my follow-up post on Hoffmeier’s Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition.
ii) Again, Kitchen’s immediate point is not about summarizing the state of the evidence, but about what evidence we can expect to survive given the conditions of the Delta.
Do we good reason to expect more evidence? Is that expectation unfounded? That’s the point.
iii) Let's be clear on one thing at the outset: intransigent unbelievers don’t care about archeological evidence. There’s a long history of unbelievers denying Biblical claims in the absence of corroborative evidence.
And every time an archaeologist makes a discovery which confirms a Biblical claim, the unbelievers go right on denying the historicity of Scripture.
All they do is to retreat to the ever-narrowing circle of the remaining uncorroborated claims.
iii) In addition, it isn’t necessary to have direct and independent corroboration for everything someone says to find him credible.
“However, as an example, I would encourage anyone to read the excerpt of Kitchen. It shows how forced the archeologist must go to attempt to maintain any viability to the Exodus. Kitchen notes that where the Hebrews allegedly lived was primarily mud, and therefore writing would not have existed.”
“Now I would hope that steve would be at least a little more skeptical. Why do the records have to ONLY be written where the slaves lived? There would be other records of slave trade, not necessarily JUST in the Delta.”
i) This is a very deceptive summary of what Kenneth Kitchen said, as if we do have extensive written records for everything else at that time and place—but not, suspiciously, for the slave-trade or Exodus.
This is what Kitchen said: “Scarce wonder that practically no written records of any extent have been retrieved from Delta sites…And in the mud, 99 percent of discarded papyri have perished forever; a tiny fraction (of late date) have been found carbonized (burned… Otherwise, the entirety of Egypt’s administrative records at all periods in the Delta is lost; and monumental texts are also nearly nil.”
ii) Kitchen does say “a tiny fraction (of late date) have been found carbonized (burned…A tiny fraction of reports from the East Delta occur in papyri recovered from the desert near Memphis.”
So not all our records were lost, but what survived is extremely fragmentary.
iii) Apropos Memphis, this was the chief administrative center of Egypt. But little has survived the ravages of time. Cf. “Memphis,” The New International Dictionary of Biblical Archeology (Zondervan 1983), 310.
If Dagood actually knew any Egyptian history or archeology, he’d know this, and not continue to raise such empty-headed objections.
iv) Kitchen also says that “pharaohs never monumentalize defeats on temple walls, no record of the successful exit of a large bunch of foreign slaves (with loss of a full chariot squadron) would ever have been memorialized by any king, in temples in the Delta or anywhere else.”
So there’s more than one factor to account for the state of the evidence.
My original quote from Kitchen already anticipates Dagood’s objections. He turns a blind eye to what was stated.
“Further, is Kitchen claiming that the Hebrews were ONLY used in the Delta?”
The Exodus narrative is centered in the Delta.
“Part of the reason for the dating of the Exodus in the 13th Century BCE is to place their existence in the reign of Rameses II, at the time of building the cities Pithom and Ramses. (Ex. 1:11) Is Kitchen stating that these cities were made of mud?”
Kitchen already addressed that objection as well: “Even great temples reduced to heaps of tumbled stones.”
“I apologize for not getting any deeper in terms of the Exodus, and again encourage anyone to go read some books (not websites) as to the problems involved.”
Yes, and Hoffmeier’s monograph would be a good place to start.
“And steve, the dates are NEVER irrespective of the evidence. Those that favor an earlier date do so because of the inability to coordinate the evidence with the later date. Those that favor a later date recognize the problems intrinsic with the earlier date. Those that favor an entirely different millennium (!) see the problems with both of these dates.”
“Never” is a fine example of Dagood’s hyperbole.
The evidence which I cited distinguishes between the first millennium BC and the second millennium BC, not between the 13C BC and the 15C BC. So the evidence I cited is irrespective of whether one favors the early or late date of the Exodus.
“Think of this—the single most important event in Hebrew history, and the archeologists/historians cannot even agree which Century it happened in, due to the problems with evidence!”
How is that surprising? We don’t have a continuous calendar extending from our own time back into the ANE. Reconstructing a relative or absolute chronology for ancient history is extremely complicated and inherently provisional, in attempting to piece together a timeline from fragmentary and diverse sources of information, such as regnal years, astronomical records, as well as lithic and ceramic typology. The ANE had more than one calendar at more than one time and place.
“But let’s move on to the Plagues:
“I see, you too, fall into the concept that ‘every’ does not mean ‘every’ and ‘all’ does not mean ‘all’ and the person writing this was using grandiose generalizations. Is God always this indistinct in his inspiration? When the Flood covered the whole earth, does this just mean ‘some’ of the earth? (Gen. 7:17) When the author states that every living thing perished, is this just more hyperbole? (Gen. 7:21-23).”
“While you claim the patter is from “general to specific” you give no examples in the Plagues. Where does God state, for example “All Egyptian livestock died” (Ex. 9:6) and then later specifically state it was only the livestock of a certain area, or personage? (Psuedo-Exodus 58:52??).”
i) No, nothing “grandiose.” Just an innocent, garden-variety generality.
ii) I said that quantifiers are context-sensitive, and I went on to specify in every case just what I meant. Pity Dagood can’t read the fine print. It’s all there.
iii) The point at issue is not the inspiration of the text, but the intelligence of the reader. Does the reader pay attention to quantitative caveats within the text, as well as the overall shape of the narrative? Or does he seize on a few isolated expressions, in defiance of the way in which their usage is implicitly and explicitly qualified in the course of the narrative.
God inspired the writer, not the reader. If a reader is dense or chooses to misread the text so that he can force it into self-contradiction by willfully disregarding internal clues and caveats, then he is welcome to his self-deception.
All Dagood does is to drop all of the qualifications given in the course of the narrative, then proclaim the narrative internally inconsistent.
“I certainly agree that there is a mean between a single cow and the every Egyptian cow killed. Does your Bible indicate where, on this mean, the Plague fell? Why, yes it does—it says ‘every.’ Can you give us a method by which we can even remotely determine where, on this mean, the author intended us to be persuaded that fewer than “every” cow died?”
I don’t need to lay down a general methodology. All that’s needed is a close reading of the text, where the text itself tells what did and did not survive each plague. That is something else I documented in detail.
“Water to Blood You did read Ex. 7:19, right? Every bit of water God stated he would strike—every pond, every stream, ever canal, every reservoir, every bit of water in a wooden bucket or stone jar.”
Yes, I read 7:19. I also read 7:22 and 7:24. Reread what I wrote.
This is how one reads a narrative. By reading the entire narrative, the way it was meant to be read; not by cherry-picking isolated verses out of context that were never meant to be read in isolation from their function in the narrative flow.
“It would not be just the Nile. All the fish in Egypt would die.”
The Egyptians would lack fresh fish for a week. Mass famine does not ensue.
“True, I am not a biologist, and would never claim to be. I am, though, at least familiar with environmental eco-systems, and have owned a fish tank or two. What happens when you drastically change the ph level in water? The fish and aquatic life either radically adapt, or die. According to your Book, it was the latter.”
A fish tank is a closed ecosystem; a river is an open eco-system. Dagood still doesn’t get it. The Nile is not an aquarium!
“No, the fish do NOT just start to wash down from the upper river, and replenish the lower river. They would have nothing to eat! The large fish need smaller fish, the smaller fish need insects and algae, and all of those items would be gone. There would be no eggs or young or tadpoles or anything left in the lower river to reproduce and repopulate. That, too, would have to come from the upper river.”
A river is a moving ecosystem. You have little fish as well as big fish upstream, and both are moving downstream. You have algae wherever you have algae. Insects are ubiquitous.
“I am not saying it could never happen, but it would take years on the river systems alone. The canals, ponds and streams would take decades.”
Yes, there might be some long-term damage. Just not on the scale you insist.
“And I did not take into account the blood washing into the headwaters, affecting that portion, NOR the problem of coagulation. I gave the Christian the benefit of the doubt that God kept the blood with some viscosity, and ended the Plague prior to it hitting the ocean. If the blood did thicken, and scab, all underwater plant life would die as well. The ecosystem, in that case, would be completely destroyed. It would take more than decades.”
If…if…if. This is the iffy objection to the Ten Plagues.
“The only reason I mentioned crocodiles was to actually get people to think about the full implications of the plague. Not just ‘all the fish were gone. Now all the fish are back.’”
The narrative never said “all the fish are back.” But fish would come from up river.
“I did like the response—'crocs don’t need to eat very often.' It reminded me of debating with inerrantists. Often, when pointing out contradictions between two verses, the inerrantist peels one verse down to just a phrase at a time, and shows how each individual phrase does not contradict the other verse. Yet when taken as a whole, it makes no sense.”
You suffer from a lack of reading comprehension. My point all along has been to read the text in context. It makes perfect sense when taken as a whole.
You are the one who tries to wedge it into a contradiction by acting as if one verse was written in ignorance of another verse, even within the confines of the very same narrative or pericope.
But one verse was not written independently of another verse. It was never meant to be understood in separation of the entire literary unit.
“Yes it is true that a crocodile can go a long time without food. Are you saying that every crocodile had just happened to eat prior to the plague? That there wasn’t a single crocodile that may have been hungry, and by being deprived of food, wouldn’t start to go out looking?”
i) The narrative doesn’t discuss crocodiles one way or the other. You’re the one who brought that up. So any discussion will be speculative.
ii) Crocodiles are cold-blooded creatures. Reptiles. They have a slow metabolism. A crocodile can survive without food for a week. A crocodile is not a Humming Bird or Least Weasel.
iii) You’re setting up a false dichotomy: either every crocodile had to survive or else every crocodile had to perish. Non sequitur.
iv) You are also dissembling. As I explained at the time, the crocodiles would have plenty to eat in the way of dead fish and carrion.
“Or perhaps it was another miracle in which God told all the crocodiles to fill up immediately before the plagues so as to survive. He wanted his people to leave Egypt with stylish belts, shoes and bags.”
Unable to address the merits of the argument, you resort to rhetorical bubble-wrap.
“Unfortunately, God was not so kind with the fish, giving them a pre-warning. They all died. Just like all the fish in the Flood. To all you people out there with an emblem on the back of your car, here is news- God Hates Fish! (Strangely, Jesus used them to pay taxes and sustain a post-mortem body. Perhaps my next blog will by “Jesus couldn’t be God, because he likes fish!”)”
More rhetorical bubble-wrap. It didn’t take long for you to lose the argument. On the very first round.
“Frogs Not destroyed? Are you serious?”
I’m a serious reader, unlike you.
The plague of frogs assumes the existence of frogs. There were frogs around to plague the Egyptians.
“ I thought the idea of an enormous bunch of frogs was supposed to be some kind of miracle. Whether we started with 1 or 100, the idea was that God created a bunch more frogs out of nothing. Are you saying that of all the plagues, the frogs were natural?”
i) I neither affirm nor deny a miraculous multiplication of frogs. The text is silent on the source of the frogs, so I’m not going to be more specific than the text. That’s part of being a responsible interpreter. That’s the difference between exegesis and eisegesis.
Whether their origin is natural or supernatural is speculative in any case. One can toy with the implications of either conjecture.
ii) The timing is miraculous.
iii) Oh, and frogs are not fish. Frogs are amphibious. They breathe air. Some lay their eggs on damp ground. Some are desert dwellers.
“At least I have the courtesy of reading the plagues as being miracles before showing the results would have destroyed the country.”
I don’t prejudge the question. That’s a matter of exegesis. And Scripture is often indifferent to the mechanism, if any.
“Livestock Ah. Now you are saying that all the livestock were not killed. So what do we do with 9:6 where it says….uh….”all the livestock of the Egyptians died.” Sure I know there are livestock in the next plagues. Where do they come from? I guess you are saying we should not trust the narrator of the story when he says “all died.” What else can’t we trust them on?”
More of your transparent sophistry. The way I exercise trust in the narrator is to interpret individual verses in the narrative context.
That’s what a narrator does: he writes a narrative. It’s a literary unit. It has an overall shape. A natural progression. Earlier stages may foreshadow later stages.
“Oh, and if the Tanakh went from general to specific, how come vs. 3 says “livestock in the field” and vs. 6 says “all.” Now you are saying that the narrator went from specific to general? Which is it?”
Both. There’s no uniform principle of composition. But one needs to be aware of various narrative techniques which a given narrator will deploy.
“It is not that hard to keep up with the apologetic. If you want general to specific (like Gen. 1 to Gen. 2) you say (without a lick of proof) that narrators went from general to specific. If you need it to be an alternative, you say it is an exception.”
No, you simply interpret the text before you. You judge every pericope on a case-by-case basis.
I didn’t give examples because it’s a common place of OT scholarship. As Oswald Allis put it, "We often find in describing an event, the Biblical writer first makes a brief and comprehensive statement and then follows it with more or less elaborate details," The Old Testament (P&R 1972), 82.
Here are a couple of examples: the relation between Gen 6:19 and 7:2 is an instance of going from general to specific.
Likewise, the relationship between Gen 1 & 2, where Gen 1presents a general account of creation, while Gen 1 fills in the details regarding the making of man.
There are many examples in the Exodus account because it has a broadly concentric structure of escalating damage, where the some of the same targets take more than one hit, resulting in a steady diminution of the original stock.
This is the overarching structure of the narrative.
Within that framework there are many individual specifications. You need to read a historical narrative with a view to both the macrostructure and the microstructure, especially in the case of the Plagues, which are cyclical as they circle back to build on what went before.
“Trading with Hebrews I purposely left this out. The relationship between the Hebrews and the Egyptians is so muddled throughout these events, any position one holds, makes no sense.”
“Pharaoh (if you go with the later dating of Exodus) has enough power to kill all the Hebrew baby boys (1:15) as well as ordering them to work without materials. (5:7).”
Every pharaoh was an absolute monarch. This doesn’t depend on the early or late date of the Exodus.
“Why trade with the Hebrews, if he could just take their cattle?”
All other things being equal, he could.
“But in 10:24, Pharaoh is asking Moses to leave their livestock behind. Asking? Why not swoop in and take them?”
Because, by that point in the narrative, he’s taken a beating. He’s gone up against Moses and repeatedly lost.
This is why you need to read a narrative…as a narrative.
“As of 12:36 the Egyptians were favorable to the Hebrews to the point of simply giving them Gold and silver.”
i)Yes, and once again, where does this occur in the course of the narrative? At the tail-end they’ve been bested and defeated. Demoralized. Their resistance is worn down to nothing. That’s the cumulative effect of the plagues. That was the intention all along.
ii)Moreover, their favorable disposition is attributed to divine agency, just as the ill-will of Pharaoh is attributed to divine agency.
“If the Hebrews had cattle, and the Egyptians did not, there would be cattle riots. And sheep and donkey riots. The story acts as if these two nations were peaceably living side by side, with bad things happening to the Egyptians and good things happening to the Hebrews.”
Even if there were riots, so what? The fact that good things happen to the Hebrews and bad things to the Egyptians is irrelevant to the possibility of a riot.
“Even if they DID trade cattle, there would still be the issue of how to negotiate with the Hebrews.”
At the outset, there’d be no need for negotiations. Slave-masters don’t dicker with slaves. Slave-masters have the upper hand.
But as the narrative unfolds, there is a shift in the balance of power. The Egyptians are on the losing end of the plagues. They are beleaguered and disempowered.
“And the influx of Egyptian items (all sadly lost in the wilderness. Whoops, not there, either, since archaeology can’t find them in Canaan, and can’t find them in the desert. Must have dropped them in the Reed Sea.).”
i) Once again, you disregard Kitchen’s observation that this is typical of ancient military campaigns. It is not a suspicious exception in the case of the Exodus.
ii) You also disregard the evidence which he and Hess do adduce.
So you have failed to engage their arguments.
iii) Oh, and while your at it you might also wish to brush up on Hoffmeier’s sequel volume, Ancient Israel in Sinai.
“And the loss of livestock being replenished and lost again.”
That’s your tendentious spin.
“I stayed away from any interaction between Egyptians and Hebrews, since the book is so contradictory as to the events, and any scenario proposed by me would be (rightly) pointed out as contradictory by some verse. I can’t help it that your book contradicts itself.”
i) No, what I did was to introduce the Jewish stock to debate you on your own turf. My position doesn’t depend on this. Indeed, I reject your underlying misinterpretation. But, for the sake of argument, I pointed out that you chose to ignore a resource readily at hand.
ii) I can’t help it that your argument is vitiated by selective quotation.
“The Egyptian granaries. Enough to sustain a nation? And not a single record kept of their depletion? Not a note made of the loss of grain? And even with stores, they would STILL require outside assistance.”
Egypt was the breadbasket of the ANE. As John Currid notes,
Egypt has always been the land of grain for Palestine during rough times (cf. 12:10-20; cf. 26:1-2). A good example comes from the time of Pharaoh Heremhab of the 19th Dynasty in Egypt. It tells of Asiatics being allowed to come to Egypt to pasture herds and to obtain food because of times of distress in the rest of the Near East.
Genesis (Evangelical Press 2003), 2:280.
Dagood can also read about ANE granaries in The New International Dictionary of Biblical Archeology, 219-20.
As well as consulting the periodical literature on ANE storage facilities, cf. J. Currid, “The Beehive Buildings of Ancient Palestine,” BA 49:1 (1986): 20-25; J. Currid & A. Navon, “Iron Age Pits & the Lahav (Tell Halif) Grain Storage Project,” BASOR 273 (1989): 67-78.
“Royal Stables. Where were those stables, again? Oh, that’s right. That takes archeology. And the absence of evidence of royal stables doesn’t mean there weren’t any.”
Not only is Dagood ignorant of ANE agrarian economics, he is equally ignorant of ANE husbandry and horsemanship. Where you had horses and livestock, you had stables. Where you had cavalry and charioteers, you had stables.
Of course the king of Egypt had stables, just like other ANE rulers.
Chariotry was a fixture of ANE warfare since the Middle Bronze Age. Cf. ISBE 4:1015.
While you’re at it, try reading the entries on “Horse” (242-43) and “Stables” (423) in The New International Dictionary of Biblical Archeology.
Oh, that’s right. Dagood doesn’t study archeology. He just talks through his hat.
“And are you saying the person that ran the Royal Stables was one that feared YHWH? 9:20. I could point out that technically Pharaoh would have “owned” the horses, and HE did not follow YHWH, so his would have been killed.”
i) I never said that Pharaoh was the only one with stables. Other important landowners would also stable their horses and livestock.
In context, we were discussing the cavalry and the charioteers. Remember?
ii) At this point in the cycle (the seventh plague), the account doesn’t say whether or not Pharaoh left his horses or livestock in the open field.
iii) The fact, though, that Pharaoh still had a squadron of horsemen and charioteers to pursue the Israelites makes it obvious, from the viewpoint of the narrator, that his warhorses were not all exposed to the hail. An intelligent reader will interpret what went before in light of what happened afterwards.
All of the information isn’t given all at once. Much of the narrative suspense lies in leaving some details unstated, to be explicated at a later phase in the dramatic arc.
“Only the cavalry? (14:23) O.K., so God was lying in 14:17 and 14:4 when he claimed he would ‘gain glory’ through all of Pharaoh’s army. (See also 14:9 and 28) Ya sure this is the apologetic you want? Not all the army died, so God was lying? Or incompetent? Note also Moses’ song in 15:4 indicates it was the entire army. I’ll grant you that it is song, not history, so was Moses exaggerating, too? Seems to be a common problem in these parts.”
As I’ve said more than once now, specific usage qualifies generic usage.
But, hey, you’re welcome to be obtuse.
“Natural possibilities? O.K. So you are saying God didn’t have any part of this at all? That his part was ‘written in’ at a later time? And this is all an exaggeration.
Hmmmm…I thought that was my line!!”
Dagood is dissembling as usual. Or is he just a little slow on the uptake? I explained exactly what I meant.
But, since he chooses to make an issue of this, let’s connect all the dots:
i) The Bible doesn’t offer any systematic definition or classification of the miraculous. But a miracle can take different forms:
a) A miracle can run contrary to the ordinary course of nature.
b) A miracle can represent an extraordinary conjunction of ordinary natural forces.
c) A miracle can either operate through second causes (e.g. Exod 14:21) or else it can bypass mundane media.
Which interpretation is correct can only be judged on a case-by-case basis. Also, because the account may be indifferent to the “mechanism,” if any, the account may furnish insufficient data to determine the mechanism, if any.
ii) One reason the Bible doesn’t define or classify or catalogue its own miracles is that, in the nature of the case, miracles are generally reported in historical narratives, and the genre of narrative theology does not regularly halt the action for editorial asides.
iii) Another reason is that, from a Biblical viewpoint, every event, whether miraculous or providential, is an act of God. It may or may not make use of secondary agents and agencies, but God is a primary, if not necessary the only, cause of every event.
iv) The distinction between what’s natural and supernatural is a secular distinction. For the run-of-the-mill secularist, nature is all there is, and nature is physical.
Hence, anything immaterial, like God, angels, demons, and discarnate souls, as well as the effects attributed to these incorporeal agents, are automatically relegated to the supernatural category.
But that represents an outsider’s perspective. In Scripture, the dividing line lies between creature and Creator, not nature and supernature.